Above art’s caption: “U.S. Army—shame on colonialism!”
Capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism are death cults, ones that are inextricably tied together and that work to reinforce each other ideologically and economically. These systems perpetually cause the suffering and death of the groups which are necessary to sacrifice in order to maintain the imperial center’s parasitic extractivism. And they perpetually work to rationalize the existence of this destructive machine. If the reality of this machine’s human and environmental impacts were to be exposed nakedly, in a whole and crystalline picture of its consequences, the masses within the core of imperialism would find themselves unable to continue supporting this machine in good conscience. But because we live under the cultural hegemony that the death cult has created, most within the core haven’t yet come to such a realization about the global order they benefit from.
This cultural hegemony simultaneously lies to those in the core about where their material best interests lie—claiming that continuing imperialist extraction would be better for them than establishing socialism would be—and encourages them not to care about imperialism’s victims. The fact that it’s necessary to argue that giving up imperialism would be in the best interests of Americans shows how twisted our culture’s moral framework is. If a system is based upon exploitation and oppression, that fact answers the question of whether or not this system should be allowed to continue. Whether or not you benefit from imperialism, or to whatever degree you do, you have a moral obligation to work towards imperialism’s defeat. But the ideology of imperialism lets the system’s benefactors believe this obligation doesn’t exist.
The imperialists claim that history is immutably a fight between dominators and the dominated, and that therefore it’s the natural order of things for some people to be subjugated by others. You can see this logic in the “white genocide” and “great replacement” ideas put forth by white racists, which argue that if whites lose their status as the supreme group, they’ll become oppressed by the new supreme groups. Such ideas are ahistorical. One can point to innumerable societies that have not had oppressor-oppressed relationships to each other, or to any other societies. The Indigenous First Nations were able to exist for thousands of years without any of these nations becoming “empires” in the sense that Eurocentric thinking defines empires. The Incan and Aztec “empires” had fundamentally different characteristics from Rome, or from the modern capitalist oppressor countries. The same applies to most of the other indigenous nations that the colonial powers have stolen from.
The oppressors have to mythologize the peoples they’ve wronged as themselves being equally guilty, in accordance with the myth that “human nature” is innately competitive. Or else the oppressors will be exposed as the criminals that they are, culpable for acts that can’t be defended even by saying “everyone does it.” Because not everyone does it, and those who’ve actively chosen to do it must be held accountable. As Parenti has observed, empires aren’t formed passively. People build and maintain them to advance material interests, interests which should therefore be fought against due to their facilitation of oppression. We have a choice not to contribute to that oppression.
This is where capitalism comes in to reinforce the self-justifications which colonialism and imperialism use. With the transition into capitalism, participating in imperialism became indispensable for a country to thrive. Capitalism caused economies to have a crisis of overproduction, which necessitated that the bourgeoisie expand their capital into new markets so that this crisis could be foisted onto other peoples. As the capitalist Cecil Rhodes said to rationalize his project for colonizing Africa, in order to provide the people of an imperialist country like Britain with good living standards amid the exploitation capitalism imposes upon them, their country must continue and expand its imperialist extraction. The people within the core must be paid off through the wealth stolen from the people within the peripheries. Conversely, the people within the peripheries must be made to be poor to offset the impacts of capitalism’s inevitable crises.
These were the reasons why Lenin clarified that imperialism is not a policy choice, but something that capitalism does out of self-preservation. As long as capitalism continues, there will be countries which engage in imperialist extraction. Therefore according to the mentality of capitalist realism, which claims there’s no alternative to capitalism, imperialism is not a crime but an unavoidable fact of civilization.
Anti-communism, specifically anti-Leninism, is instrumental for the perpetuation of this narrative. It can’t be recognized that capitalism is merely one stage of historical development, and that capitalism can be replaced by a new system like how it replaced feudalism. It can’t be recognized that workers states have existed for over a century now, starting with the 1917 Russian revolution, or that today’s largest workers state China has carried out historically unparalleled achievements in poverty reduction. Marxism-Leninism’s theory must be demonized, and Marxism-Leninism’s tangible progress towards creating a new system that’s superior to capitalism must be dismissed as well. The possibility of a viable alternative to the death cult can’t be considered.
As capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism expand the amount of human and natural life that they’re willing to sacrifice to keep profits up, creating an environmental crisis which is currently manifesting in an unprecedented global heat wave, the death cult can only respond by retreating further into fantasy. The capitalist, colonial, and imperialist causes behind our situation can’t get allowed to be properly diagnosed. The fact that the imperialist countries are behind the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the peripheral countries; the fact that the U.S. military is the world’s largest polluter; the fact that the profit motive incentivized oil executives to keep climate science a secret so that they could avoid scrutiny for accelerating the crisis—these realities are all ignored. Instead China has to be scapegoated for pollution, allowing those within the imperialist countries to not take responsibility for neglecting to fight against their own governments. Naturally this blame-shifting game also extends to constructing myths about China and Russia being “imperialist” themselves, again reflecting the narrative that every side is equally guilty of the crimes of empire.
Such projection is indicative of a civilization that’s in decline due to its own contradictions, that refuses to face the consequences for its having built an entire society off of theft from other societies. If you’re in the imperial center, whatever relative advantages you have due to your social standing—whether it’s ties to a bourgeois family, a rare good-paying job, having been born white—shouldn’t cause any conflict as to whether you have a duty to fight against the machine. And should you choose the revolutionary path, communists won’t even have a problem with you. What communists care about is whether you’re willing to fight against all aspects of the superstructure which facilitates the exploitation of the global proletariat, and which in the process is putting increasing parts of humanity in peril. We all have contradictions as residents of the imperial center. It’s whether we choose to reckon with these contradictions that matters.
Will you be willing to risk your life to help free your Native comrades from the ongoing settler-colonial occupation of their nations? To do the same for the struggle of your Black comrades to be free from their own colonial bondage? To be principled in backing the struggles by those within the peripheries to free themselves from imperial control? To choose class struggle over opportunism, and participate in guerrilla warfare if this is what the conditions demand of you? If not, there will be a greater likelihood that the climate crisis which capital and empire are causing will consume you, along with the rest of the world. But this now-imminent threat of the death cult impacting its core members shouldn’t be the sole reason for participating in revolutionary struggle. The mere fact that the current social order oppresses any number of people in itself mandates that this order be overthrown.—————————————————————————
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